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Empowering Families Through Head Start

After her daughter was born with Down Syndrome, Ginger West began looking for advice for the problems that were sure to arise. Luckily advice found her in the form of The Learning Center for Families (TLC) Early Head Start (EHS) programs. Since then Ginger has made it a mission to help promote these programs to her community and state.

Ginger West is being honored as a Champion of Change for her commitment to delivering on the promise of Head Start in her community, helping to educate and care for our youngest, most vulnerable children. 

On July 26, 2006, I was keeping vigil at my 4 day old daughter’s bedside while she was fighting for her life. I was so scared. She had tubes going into her head and was so tiny and blue. My daughter Jacquie was born with Down Syndrome. I had no idea what we were going to do. I was so upset. Nobody could tell us anything. A little while later the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff introduced us to the nurse from The Learning Center for Families (TLC) Early Head Start (EHS) program. She reassured us that the TLC-EHS program would be there for us as soon as we got out of the hospital. Those first few weeks were a blur. But I do remember that someone from TLC came over every week and I really looked forward to those visits. I didn’t know it, but on top of everything else, I had postnatal depression and I was struggling. TLC helped me find a counselor and together we worked on developing goals for my daughter and our family.

Honestly, I didn’t think I would be able to accomplish much in the very beginning. I was so overwhelmed. I would spend all day on the Internet reading doomsday prophesies for my child.

Slowly but surely, TLC helped me discover the potential of my child and helped me understand how important I am as my daughter’s primary educator. Every week I was so excited to share what I had taught my daughter to do. They kept inviting me to Parent Committee meetings and so finally I decided, what the heck, and I went to one. I was elected to the Policy Council at my very first meeting. At first I wondered what I had gotten myself into. But at the meetings I learned how important my beliefs and thoughts were to the program. I eventually ended up on the Utah Head Start Association. I suggested many ideas and improvements and next thing you know, I was appointed to the Board of Directors at The Learning Center for Families as well. Within two years I served as the Chairperson for the Board of Directors.

There’s no stopping me now. I want all parents to know about programs that can help their children succeed and get ready for school. I am currently the Tri-chair for the State of Utah Interagency Coordinating Council, as well as the Interagency Outreach Training Initiative Council through Utah State University’s Center for People with Disabilities. I am actively working on inclusive communities locally and for my state. In my “spare time” I volunteer at events to help promote Early Head Start and Head Start in our community. I distribute information and speak to groups.

Some days I think back to where I was just 5 short years ago. I thought our lives were over and the black cloud would never lift. I am so grateful that my experience in Early Head Start helped me learn how strong I really am.

Ginger is a volunteer at the Utah Center for Disabilities